The History of Our Lady’s Hospice & Care Services

145 Years A Growing - Past, present & future

In 2024, OLH&CS will proudly celebrate 145 years since our organisation was established to meet the care needs of the community it serves.

It is with great pride that we reflect on the brave, pioneering work of Mother Mary Aikenhead, and how she inspired the Religious Sisters of Charity to take on this work and develop the strong ethos of care that remains to this day.

Our mission, to provide loving high quality, person-centred care in the Hospice and community is built on these foundations. Similarly, our core values of human dignity, compassion, justice, quality and advocacy are important to all staff and volunteers and enable us to provide the best of care to a catchment area of almost a million people.

Founded in 1815, the Religious Sisters of Charity (RSOC), reached far beyond their convent walls to visit and serve their community – work that continues today. While Mary Aikenhead founded the RSOC, Anna Gaynor was the driving force behind the Hospice. A hallmark of these women, and those who came after, was reacting to the needs of the community.

And so, on 9th December 1879, they welcomed the poor and poorly to avail of a clean, dignified and safe environment at their house in Harold’s Cross.

Opening with just nine beds, overcrowding was imminent. With careful planning, negotiating and skilful fundraising, Gaynor soon developed a 110-bed facility with a kitchen, laundry and dairy. While it grew and became known for loving care, conditions were primitive with open fires, candles, hand-washed linen and instruments, and carbolised mattresses. Electricity, a lift and central heating did not arrive for decades.

As the patient profile changed, the Hospice evolved and we began to see the emergence of today’s three core services in Harold’s Cross: Palliative Care, Rheumatic and Musculoskeletal Disease, and Care of the Older Person (incorporating Anna Gaynor House residential facility and the Community Reablement Unit or CRU). Education and research have always been to the forefront as they form the foundation for providing quality services. Specialist facilities to accommodate learning and training were first opened in 1987.

Blackrock Hospice opened in 2003 to expand the provision of palliative care across south Dublin and north Wicklow. Services include: in-patient, out-patient and Specialist Community Palliative Care.

Our services continually adapt in line with patients’ needs. To meet increased demand and the complex health and social care needs of Ireland’s ageing population, we must provide more specialist facilities and services.

To achieve this and to grow our organisation, we continue to work through our 2017-2022 Strategic Plan to enhance our care. It outlines our plans to build capacity, reconfigure and integrate our services and workforce based on best practice, evidence-based models of care and anticipated future

We passionately believe that everyone living in our community should be able to access high quality person-centred care when they need it. We also believe that our services should be delivered in the most appropriate and effective way to meet the needs of patients and their families.

We celebrated the completion of our redeveloped specialist Palliative Care Unit in Harold’s Cross in 2018. It was an ambitious project and we are delighted to provide this wonderful facility for our community. While our excellent care has not changed, we are now able to provide it in a setting that is
more comfortable, dignified and family friendly. It makes a real difference to the experience of patients and their loved ones every single day and we love to hear their positive feedback.

During 2020, we welcomed a new sibling, Wicklow Hospice. Following ten year of fundraising by the local community to create a Hospice in the area. The Hospice at Magherarmore welcomed its first patients in December 2020. This newly-built facility will has 15 beds and the Community Palliative Care Team provide specialist care in people’s homes across the county seven days a week through.

In early 2022, the refurbishment of Blackrock Hospice, to mirror the quality and standard of environment for our patients across all sites began. The project was completed a year later with patients returning in March 2023.

Every day our staff and volunteers uphold our core values of human dignity, compassion, justice, quality and advocacy.

Every day we work with patients and their loved ones in our facilities and in their homes to help them achieve their best quality of life.

With 650 staff and 350 volunteers, we serve a catchment area of a million people across south Dublin and Wicklow. To do this we are reliant on continued public support and fundraising, something that has been true since the Hospice first opened.

The organisation’s core values are upheld and shared by many people of diverse cultures, faiths, professions and circumstances. Daily they serve to inspire motivate and guide us in our work together.

We are truly of the community, for the community and by the community.

Our History


Open its doors

Our Lady’s Hospice in Harold’s Cross opens with 9 beds on 9th December.


First Doctor

The first medical doctor was appointed to the Hospice; Dr. Dudley White.


Number of beds

The number of beds increases to 40.


Further Increases

90 further beds added.


Lighting up

Electric lighting comes to the ‘Institution, the Convent & Grounds.'


Heating up

Central heating replaces coal fires at the Hospice and there is much excitement as the first lift is installed.



Large fundraising carnival on site in Harold’s Cross



The last patient dying with Tuberculosis (TB) is admitted to the Hospice


First Geriatrician

The Hospice appoints Ireland’s first Geriatrician, Dr John Fleetwood.


Rheumatology Rehabilitation Unit

The Hospice establishes a new 68 bed Rheumatology Rehabilitation Unit


Medical Director

Dr John McCarthy appointed first Medical Director of the Palliative Care Unit.


Home Care

The Hospice Home Care team is established; the first of its kind in Ireland to visit patients in their own homes


Bereavement Support

The Bereavement Support Service commences.



The Education & Research Centre is opened by President Patrick Hillery.


First consultant in terminal care

Dr Michael Kearney becomes country’s first consultant in terminal care – a joint post with St. Vincent’s Hospital & the Hospice.


Hospice Sunflower Days

Hospice Sunflower Days, the first ever nationwide fundraiser for hospice care takes place


RMDU Refurbishment

RMDU is completely refurbished over a two year period


Ireland’s Biggest Coffee Morning

First national Ireland’s Biggest Coffee Morning for Hospice fundraiser


Light Up A Life

We host our first annual ceremony of remembrance Light Up A Life at Christmas



The Hospice begins supporting patients with HIV & AIDS related illnesses


Palliative Care Unit

President Mary Robinson opens Caritas, the new Palliative Care Unit



The Volunteer Department is officially established


Board of Management

Establishment of First Board of Management of Our Lady’s Hospice.


Day Hospice

Day Hospice opens.


Blackrock Hospice

Blackrock Hospice, our second site, opens through the generosity of the Louis & Zelie Martin Foundation.


Community Reablement Unit

The Community Reablement Unit opens providing a rehabilitative service for older people.


Anna Gaynor House

Phase one of Anna Gaynor House is officially opened by Mary Harney T.D.


Education & Research Centre

Education & Research Centre officially opened by Mary Harney T.D.


Anna Gaynor House

Phase two of Anna Gaynor House is complete & the Unit is officially opened by President Mary Mc Aleese.


Name change

Name changes to Our Lady’s Hospice & Care Services to reflect the breath and scale of services provided .


Specialist Palliative Care Unit

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar & Minister for Health Simon Harris open the new Specialist Palliative Care Unit in Harold’s Cross. 100% of the €13.6m build costs came from fundraising.


140 years and counting

140th anniversary. A timeline exhibition is launched by RTE presenter Ryan Tubridy to celebrate 140 years of care in the local community.


Wicklow Hospice

Wicklow Hospice, our third site opens thanks to the generosity of the local community. Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly welcomes staff on site before the arrival of our first in-patients in December.



The Hospice adapts to living with COVID-19.


Blackrock Refurbishment

Blackrock Hospice closes to allow for significant refurbishment. This year-long project will be funded by fundraised income.


Blackrock Reopens

Blackrock Hospice renovation completed on-time and on budget. Patients are welcomed back to the bright welcoming facility, with extended single bedrooms and modern features.

Through the years